Choose Porcelain Dinnerware For a Lifetime of Service
In this article, we provide helpful tips and an at a glance checklist for things to consider when buying porcelain dinnerware. Many people will only ever buy one dinner service, often when they get married and add a set to the wedding gift list at a department store.
So we need to get it right - first time! But so many of us pick on impulse, because of the color or pattern, without giving consideration to how easy it will be to care for, get replacement china pieces in the future, or whether the style, shape or pattern will go out of fashion or keep up with changes to our home décor.
A porcelain dinner service is as beautiful as it is durable. This durability means that any dinnerware set we choose will be with us for a long time. The initial cost can be quite high, but averaged out over the many years of daily use it will get, it still represents a great investment.
Read on to find out why we love porcelain dinnerware and how you can avoid making an expensive mistake with your choice of dinner service!
How To Set The Perfect Dinner Table
Why Choose Porcelain Dinnerware?
Porcelain is a great choice especially if you can only have one dinner serviced and need to use this for everyday use as well as special occasions. It is so hard and has a beautiful non-porous surface that will resist chips and scratches.
Many people choose plain white dinnerware so that they can avoid pitfalls of mismatches, décor changes and changes in fashion and style. However, with a little help from our tips and suggestions, you can choose something a little more personal as well as smart and stylish!
Useful Features of Modern Dinnerware
Take into account these practical considerations. If you do not think about them before making your choice you could find you have made an expensive mistake – so let’s take a look at these first.
- Microwave safe. If you will be using this as your main dinner service, will you need to reheat foods in the microwave? If so, you need to steer well clear of any item that has a metallic trim. Many of the most elegant styles have a plain gold or platinum band around the rim, or have decorative trims with metallic finishes. These must not be used in the microwave at all – so if reheating your meal is important to you avoid any decoration of this type.
- Dishwasher safe. Will you need your crockery to be dishwasher safe? If so, make sure that the decoration is suitable for washing in a dishwasher. Check if the manufacturer recommends a particular dishwashing product such as Finish powerball tablets as fading can be a problem with some of the cheaper, more abrasive powders.
- Oven to table dinnerware. Do you need your dinnerware to double as cookware? If you want to cook dishes such as Lasagne or casseroles in the same serving ware that you bring them to the table in, choose an oven to table product. Many dinner services have serving ware that is suitable for this purpose whilst the tableware (dinner plates and dessert dishes) are not safe to be used in the oven. So this might be a consideration too.
- Freezer Proof. Do you want to prepare food in advance and then freeze it so that you have several meals, prepared and ready in your freezer that can be cooked in the same dish. If so, check that your preferred dinner set says that the serving dishes are also freezer-proof.
Timeless Elegance, Coordinating Dinner Ware
Plain white dinnerware might go with every style of décor and will not go out of date. However, to inject a little color, a simple colored banding decoration or a one or two-color accent will allow you something more personal but will remain easy to coordinate with changes in your décor as time goes by. Choosing color accents rather than metallic accents will almost certainly be less expensive and will also enable microwave use. Colored decoration rather than metallic, is more likely to be completely dishwasher safe.
Use Charger Plates for Added Impact
A top tip for coordinating your dinnerware for special occasions is to choose under-plates called chargers which can be almost ‘throwaway’ in bright gold or silver metallics for Christmas, or your choice of colors for Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentines, Easter and family celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries. Dinnerware made in USA can be expensive but teaming your set with inexpensive chargers that you can even make yourself (get some great ideas from the video below!).
Make Your Own Charger Plates to Complement Your Dinner Service
Some Ideas for Under-Plate Chargers for Special Occasions
Dress Up Your Dinnerware with Accessories
Use matching accessories such as napkins, table runners, candles or even floral decorations as these can all help to create a themed dining table to greet your guests and give a totally new look to turn your everyday porcelain dinnerware into special occasion dinner ware!
Another way to add variety and interest is to have plain dinner plates and team these with serving ware with the same background color but some decoration. The same could apply to soup bowls or side plates (look at the pretty place setting in the picture below).
Tea and coffee cups and saucers should match your dinnerware if you are serving these drinks at the dining table, but if you prefer to take your coffee in the lounge after a meal, you can choose something completely different in style, color and design.
Choosing Your Dinner Ware Shape
The shape of your dinnerware will depend a lot on personal taste – but will also depend on your style of cooking, whether you want traditional, or modern design and so on – all these things should be carefully considered because, whilst an up to the minute shape or design might seem perfect for right now, (for example, square dinnerware sets are really popular at the moment), but consider whether a non-traditional style will look tired and dated in five, ten, twenty – even fifty years time!
Traditional dinner plate shapes are either rimmed with a deeper center, more suitable if you serve a lot of casseroles, hotpots and meals with gravy and rimless plates which are more suited to a more modern way of eating with bite sized pieces or simple salads. Because of the rim, rimmed dinner plates are normally bigger than their rimless counterparts so that the area for the food to sit is about the same on both styles.
How Many Pieces Will I Need Initially?
When buying porcelain dinnerware, you need to decide whether you have the budget to buy everything you need right off, or whether you need to start with a basic set and add to it.
You can also economise on what comprises a place setting for example, instead of starting with a complete set of three plates (dinner, salad and side plate), plus a soup bowl and saucer or stand and a cup and saucer, you might want to just have a dinner and tea plate, a bowl that could be used for breakfast, soup or dessert and not worry about having matching cups and saucers initially.
Then you need to decide how many place settings you ‘must’ have initially. This may be four, six, eight, ten, or twelve depending on how likely you are to be entertaining guests, etc. Starter sets offer economy when purchasing initially and usually comprise a basic set for four place settings which can be built upon as funds allow and necessity demands!
Remember to avoid extremes of temperature. Never take a very cold piece of your dinner set and place it in a hot oven, for example.
Buy spares of plates and cups when you make your initial purchase as these are the most likely things to get broken.
Economies when Purchasing.
Quality dinnerware is always expensive but it is worth the investment to have plates that look good on the table, which are not warped so they lie flat without ‘wobbling’ and which stack easily.
However, if you are prepared to compromise just a little on quality, you can often buy what are known as ‘factory seconds’ at outlet stores or direct from china manufacturers. ‘Seconds’ are pieces where the quality is still good enough to be sold, but there might be a very minor flaw in the decoration, or a tiny blemish in the surface of the porcelain. Often the imperfections are so minor as to be imperceptible to most people and brilliant bargains can be had!
Severware or Serving Ware
These pieces are the completers for the set and usually need to be bought separately unless you are buying a complete dinner service for six or more people when you will usually find these pieces (or at least, the basic ones), included.
As a guide, you will probably need:-
A large and medium sized meat platter,
A vegetable dish (open or covered)
A casserole dish
A gravy boat and stand
Sugar bowl (usually with lid)
Teapot and/or Coffee Pot
Salt and Pepper pots
Save money with a Completer Set
In many cases, the basic server ware pieces you will need can be bought packaged together. Known as a “Completer Set”, the contents vary considerably but do represent excellent value when compared to the cost of buying the pieces individually.
What To Do When You Need Replacement Dinnerware
If you choose a well known design from one of the top quality china manufacturers, there is every likelihood that the dinner service you choose will be available for many years to come and replacement pieces will be easy to come by either direct from the manufacturer or via a retailer who should be able to order specific pieces for you even if they do not have them in stock.
Remember that it might be worth claiming on your household insurance if you have accidental damage cover as items like covered vegetable dishes and tureens are expensive to replace.
Even if you have chosen a well known dinnerware set, eventually manufacture will be discontinued. However, it is still possible to get replacements.
Yard sales (car boot sales in the UK), often turn up some items of dinnerware in first class condition for a tiny fraction of the new price, you may be lucky to find a piece you are looking for.
Alternatively Amazon, or more likely, eBay should have pieces of your particular set – do a search on manufacturer and pattern name and save the search – eBay will let you know when new pieces are listed if you request this. The other online option is to go through one of the websites specializing in china replacements as these will often have stock of discontinued items.
The final option is to place an advert in online classifieds or in your local press.
Don’t give up, someone, somewhere out there has the exact piece you are looking for.
Your Porcelain Dinnerware Buying Guide Checklist
When thinking of buying porcelain dinnerware, here is an 'at a glance' checklist for you to print off and check against any dinner service set you might be considering!
- Do you need it to be your only dinner service or just for special occasions?
- Do you need it to be oven, dishwasher, microwave or freezer proof?
- Consider your lifestyle, do you enjoy formal entertaining and dining or whether you would prefer something suited to more a more informal lifestyle?
- Consider whether the design is likely to date or not match with future changes to your décor.
- Consider how you could accessorize a particular dinner service for different special occasions throughout the year.
- Consider how many pieces you can afford to buy to start with and whether it is better to begin with a starter set and add a completer set.
Keeping all the above points in mind will help you and ensure you end up with a porcelain dinner service that will be a source of pride for many years to come.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Alison Graham